Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Nothing goes together better than baseball and summer. And children of all ages love America’s favorite pastime, which makes a ballfield the perfect playground for families. Minor League Baseball (MiLB) in North Carolina is just the ticket with low prices, (general admission tickets range $5-$7), family deals and lots of fan interaction.

Many ball clubs offer fireworks displays on Friday or Saturday nights, and Sunday afternoon autograph sessions or “Run the Bases” for the kids. So get that autograph from a minor league player, he might be an MLB All-Star some day.

Charlotte Knights at Knights Stadium
2280 Deerfield Drive, Fort Mill, SC
About 20 minutes from uptown Charlotte
Homer The Dragon invites families to “The Castle” to join in the fun. Saturday night post-game fireworks, a mini-amusement area and weekly promotions keep the kids entertained. The Friday Fun Pass is a great family deal. For $10, get two tickets, two hot dogs and two ice cream cones. Get the coupon at www.charlotteknights.com/friday. Class AAA affiliate of the Chicago White Sox.

Kannapolis Intimidators at Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium
2888 Moose Road, Kannapolis
About 30 minutes from uptown Charlotte
The fun never stops with Friday and Saturday night fireworks, between inning contests and live entertainment at many games. Kids can play in the Pit Stop Playground area, or enjoy “DUB” the mascot. Class A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox.

Hickory Crawdads at LP Frans Stadium
2500 Clement Blvd., NW, Hickory
About 65 minutes from uptown Charlotte
Catch Conrad the Crawdad (the mascot) on a Friday for fireworks and fun. Find a game on the schedule when they play the Kannapolis Intimidators for a unique Carolinas MiLB experience. Class A affiliate of the Texas Rangers.

Greensboro Grasshoppers at NewBridge Bank Park
408 Bellemeade St., Greensboro
About 90 minutes from uptown Charlotte
Check out The Hoppers at this ballpark that opened in 2005. The kid-safe play park is the home of the second largest video board in the minor leagues. Enjoy fireworks every Friday and Saturday night. Class A affiliate of the Florida Marlins.

Goin’ to The Show
Once you’ve gotten a taste of the minors, grab the kids and take the three-hour drive to Atlanta’s Turner Field for a chance to see The Show. The what? It’s baseball slang for the Major Leagues, and that is just what the minor league players are working toward.

Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves, opened in 1997 and seats 49,750. The Braves host more than 40 home games this summer, offering plenty of options for families including Two for Tuesdays ($8) and SkyLine seats for $1. Teach your youngsters the “Tomahawk Chop.” Sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the famous seventh-inning stretch.

Catch a Friday night game and you’ll get a spectacular fireworks display, or join the Braves on All-Star Sundays, featuring alumni autograph sessions before the game and let the kids run the bases afterward. If the kids get bored, no worries! Cartoon Network’s Tooner Field, inside the park, consists of eight activity areas featuring cartoon characters in larger-than-life environments. Explore and play in the Codename: Kids Next Door’s tree house, sing-along with Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi, visit Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, jump on a computer and play FusionFall, or swing a bag on the Billy & Mandy sandlot.

Baseball is all-American summer family fun. So grab the kids, put on your caps and go on a baseball journey — near or far. CP

The Atlanta Braves
Turner Field
755 Hank Aaron Drive, SW
Tickets: $6

Other NC MiLB Teams

Asheville Tourists at McCormick Field
30 Buchanan Place, Asheville
Class A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies
Mascot: Ted E. Tourist
Special: Autograph Sundays and “Kids Run the Bases”

Carolina Mudcats at Five County Stadium
1501 NC 39, Zebulon
Class AA affiliate of Cincinnati Reds
Mascot: Muddy the Mudcat
Special: Friday fireworks

Durham Bulls at Athletic Park
Jackie Robinson and Blackwell Street, Durham
Class AAA affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays
Mascot: Wool E. Bull
Special: Lucky, the resident Labrador Retriever, who delivers baseballs to the umpire and runs the bases on command

Winston-Salem Dash
Gene Hooks Field-Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem
Class A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox
Mascot: Bolt (new!) and check out the new team uniforms, too
Special: Renamed in 2009, the Dash will be in a new downtown stadium in 2010

Eve White is editor of Charlotte Parent magazine.